Friday, February 05, 2010

ZNet, Noam Chomsky

I know Michael Albert from years and years back (student days) and ZNet has this note up:

We have placed a Proposal for a Participatory Socialist International online for you to consider endorsing. The page includes the proposal and also information about its origins, process, and context including the Fifth International gathering planned for Caracas this April, as well as a link if you decide to endorse. We hope you will Endorse!

I haven't had time to read the proposal but I will later.

"The Corporate Takeover of U.S. Democracy" (Noam Chomsky, ZNet):

Jan. 21, 2010, will go down as a dark day in the history of U.S. democracy, and its decline.

On that day the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government may not ban corporations from political spending on elections—a decision that profoundly affects government policy, both domestic and international.

The decision heralds even further corporate takeover of the U.S. political system.

To the editors of The New York Times, the ruling “strikes at the heart of democracy” by having “paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.”

The court was split, 5-4, with the four reactionary judges (misleadingly called “conservative”) joined by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. selected a case that could easily have been settled on narrow grounds and maneuvered the court into using it to push through a far-reaching decision that overturns a century of precedents restricting corporate contributions to federal campaigns.

Now corporate managers can in effect buy elections directly, bypassing more complex indirect means. It is well-known that corporate contributions, sometimes packaged in complex ways, can tip the balance in elections, hence driving policy. The court has just handed much more power to the small sector of the population that dominates the economy.

I hate to be a spoil sport, but how much did we lose? Seems to me that things will be exactly the same, they just won't be hidden. Money has bought all the elections in recent memory. That's why we need public financing and that's why it's so deplorable that Barack Obama broke his promise on public financing. In doing so, he became the first Democrat to refuse it since the Watergate reform was instituted.

We should have heard a huge public outcry. We didn't. It was okay with so many on the left and 'left' and then they wanted to whine about Barack being center right?

How stupid are they?

Barack's campaign could make more without public financing and they weren't sure some of his donors would give to the DNC because they did not consider themselves to be Democrats.

It was all about Barack.

I think Noam's making several important points and I fully support public financing but I'm not going to pretend like this is that much of a shift in the system. Anyone who thinks it is missed how much corporate money Barack raked in.

Spoke on the phone with Rebecca today for a lengthy period. She did not plan to be in London that long and she wanted to be sure that (a) her daughter was handling it and (b) so was C.I.? Her daughter's fine. I told her that C.I.'s bought so many clothes for Beijing (that's not her daughter's real name but that's name Rebecca uses for her online) that they're going to need to add on several closets. Tonight, for example, Beijing is wearing the most beautiful red velvet dress and she's got these lovely red velvet ribbons in her hair. If you try to take them out, she will tell you "No!" She's had a blast with C.I. Ask her what she does and she'll tell you, "Speak to people." Because she goes along with C.I. and the gang when they're speaking out against the Iraq War. From all reports, she's generally in C.I.'s arms or on C.I.'s hip during that. This week she had the added bonus of Trina's grandaughter (and Trina) being with them. Beijing and Trina's Grandaughter are just months apart -- I think three.

Ask her where Rebecca is and she says, "Mommy's working." She says it so matter of fact. "Do you miss her?" "Mommy will be back, she's working."

She's such a cute little girl. I told Rebecca that my only fear is that she's not going to recognize her daughter. She left this sweet and shy little girl and she's coming back to this still sweet but very vocal little girl.

Oh, I also had to tell her that her daughter is dating. That is a joke. Rebecca's daughter's not even five-years-old. But she has a boyfriend. Wally is her boyfriend. I said, "Wally's a bit older than you." "Aunt Lainie, he's my boyfriend!" Okay.

Rebecca couldn't stop laughing about that.

But she's had a blast. The smartest thing Rebecca could have done was leave her with C.I. because it's a new thing every day. C.I.'s on the road speaking or home for a few hours in California. There's never a chance to be bored.

Rebecca hopes to be back by next week. She's thinking Wednesday or Thursday. But she's not sure on that.

Oh, in case anyone's worried, C.I. is just fine. C.I.'s never had a problem with children, either her own or anyone else's. I've blogged before about how magical C.I. is with children. She rarely gets into a confrontation with a child. It has to be a safety issue for her to get into a confrontation. Otherwise, she just distracts them. They think they're about to throw a fit over a piece of candy and C.I.'s asking them if they see the cloud up there in the sky.

She's like Mary Poppins without the S&M overtones. Can you tell I'm tired?

By the way, read her "I Hate The War." It is text gold. How she can write like that when she's doing several entries a day, on the road, watching Rebecca's daughter, opening up her new home in DC and so much more is just beyond me. As always, she amazes me.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 5, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed again with bombings resulting in mass fatalities, election chaos continues, was Tuesday all a Democratic photo op, and more.

Today, Iraq is again slammed with bombings resulting in mass fatalities.
Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports, "Two car bombs went off at the same time on a bridge named Wadil- Salam which is located east of Karbala, 80 km south of Baghdad, an Iraqi interior ministry source told Xinhua. The two cars loaded with heavy explosives were parked at the two ends of the bridge respectively, said the source who refused to give his name." AFP states it was a mortar bomb. Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reports it was a suicide car bombing immediately followed by the mortar attack. CNN goes with two car bombings. The Washington Post's Ernesto Londono (at the Financial Times of London) explains, "Investigators were trying to determine whether there had been one or two explosions." Skipping the specifics of the bombing types, Al Jazeera notes, "Al Jazeera has learned that three Iraqi army vehicles were also destroyed in the attack." This morning AP counted 27 dead thus far and at least sixty injured. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) also counted 27 dead but 131 injured while noting that the numbers would likely rise throughout the day -- which they did. Muhanad Mohammed, Sami al-Jumaili, Michael Christie and Jon Boyle (Reuters) report the death toll has now reached "at least 40 people [dead] and wounded 145 others" according to "health officials". The US State Dept released the following statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

The United States condemns the series of bombing attacks against Shi'a pilgrims in Iraq over the past week. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Attacking men, women and children engaged in religious pilgrimage is reprehensible and exposes the cynical immorality of the terrorists who seek to replace Iraq's hard-won progress with violence and intimidation. They will not succeed in breaking the will of the Iraqi people. Iraqis are committed to realizing the promise of their democracy. There is no better rebuke to those who traffic in terror.

BBC News (link has text and a clip of the aftermath of the bombings) offers, "The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says that the stakes are high; a peaceful and credible election would allow the country to draw a line underneath the bloodshed and turbulence of recent years, he says. But, he adds, these recent bombings have raised fears of a return to sectarian violence, just as American forces prepare to withdraw." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) explain, "The bombings play to the worst fears of Iraqi and US officials that attacks could re-ignite the kind of sectarian violence that plunged this country into civil war three years ago. They sparked anger even among security officers." Anthony Shadid (New York Times) observes, "There was a sense of fatalism to the attacks, one of dozens this week on pilgrims that the Shiite-led government had girmly predicted but was powerless to stop. The killings have underlined the very meaning of the pilgrimage: a religious ritual to commemorate Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammed whose death in the battlefield in Karbala in A.D. 680 gave Shiite Muslims an ethos of suffering, martyrdom and resistance." Sayed Mahdi al-Modaressi (The New Statesman) explains:

For Shias, Hussein is the ultimate moral exemplar: a man who refused to bow in the face of tyranny and despotism. Shias see his martyrdom as the greatest victory of good over evil, right over wrong, truth over falsehood. In the words of the Urdu poet Muhammad Iqbal: "Imam Hussein uprooted despotism for ever till the Day of Resurrection. He watered the dry garden of freedom with the surging wave of his blood, and indeed he awakened the sleeping Muslim nation . . . Hussein weltered in blood and dust for the sake of truth."
But why would all these people walk for hundreds of miles to remember a painful event that took place over 13 centuries ago? Visitors to the shrine of Hussein and his brother Abbas in Karbala are not driven by emotion alone. They cry because they make a conscious decision to be reminded of the atrocious nature of the loss and, in doing so, they reaffirm their pledge to everything that is virtuous and holy.
The first thing that pilgrims do on facing his shrine is recite the Ziyara, a sacred text addressing Hussein with due respect for his status, position and lineage. In it, the Shia imams who followed him after the massacre in Karbala instruct their followers to begin the address by calling Hussein the "inheritor" and "heir" of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. There is something profound in making this proclamation. It shows that Hussein's message of truth and freedom is viewed as an inseparable extension of that list of divinely appointed prophets. Pilgrims go to Karbala not to admire its physical beauty, or to shop, or to be entertained, or to visit ancient historical sites. They go there to cry. They go to mourn. They go to join the angels in their grief. They enter the sacred shrine weeping and lamenting.
Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) provide this context, "Overall, there have been eight suicide bombings in Iraq the past 11 days, targeting hotels and government buildings as well as pilgrims, in a sign that the Sunni extremist insurgency appears to be regrouping in an attempt to destabilize the country ahead of the March 7 election." In other reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadise bombing which claimed the life of 1 pilgrim and left fifteen more injured.


Reuters notes 1 pilgrim was injured by a Baghdad sniper shooting and that 2 police officers were shot dead in Mosul.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Interior Ministry employee Brig Gen Ali Ghalib was kidnapped last night in Baghdad.


Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul ("kidnapping victim riddled with bullets").

The war that never ends.
Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes that Tuesday, February 2nd was the 2,405 day of the Iraq War and, using DoD figures, notes 4,378 deaths of US service members in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War. The elections and violence were discussed today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR -- which is archived and you can also podcast) when Diane spoke with Bryan Bender (Boston Globe), Youchi Dreazen (Wall St. Journal) and Elise Labott (CNN).

Diane Rehm: And now let's talk about Iraq and it's election commison which has delayed start of campaigning for Parliamentary elections. How come, Elise?

Elise Labott: Well an Iraqi appeals court this week overturned an effort to bar hundreds of candidates from upcoming elections. Many of these were aligned with Saddam Hussein's former Ba'ath Party. Many of them were members of Parliament to begin with, in previous elections [post-invasion, previous elections] and they had already been vetted. But the ban, you know, really threatened to disenfranchise Sunnis once again and open up possible sectarian tensions that we've seen over the last few years. The court overturned this ban. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had said, you know, no, that's fine, it's a Constitutional -- it's unconstitutional to overturn the ban. And so now they've postponed the elections [she means the start of campaigning for the elections].

Diane Rehm: So what's that going to mean for the whole government, Youchi?

Youchi Dreazen: There's that wonderful line in [
Francis Ford Coppola's] The Godfather III where Al Pacino says, "Every time I think I'm out, they pull me back in." And the US, we've thought that the war is over, that the violence has stopped, the sectarian tensions are gone, Maliki's a strong leader, we can focus on something else and pull our troops out. And what's been made clear over the last few weeks -- both politically as Elise talked about but much more horrifically in terms of suicide bombings, one of which destroyed our office -- the [Wall St.] Journal offices and, of course, much worse, many human lives at the Hamra hotel in Baghdad where I lived myself for close to two years.

Diane Rehm: Really.

Youchi Dreazen: The violence is back in force and what you're seeing is the kind of syncronized attacks throughout Baghdad that you saw in the worst days of '06, '07. So this belief that we won was resting, basically, on two pillars. One, violence was gone. Two, sectarian tensions are gone. What we're seeing now is that both are still back.

Bryan Bender: I think the seriousness with which these recent developments are viewed in Washington was evident by the fact that Vice President Joe Biden was sent to Iraq a couple of weeks ago in the wake of this decision to bar these candidates because there's some real concern that the longer the elections are delayed, the more this friction is there -- and the violence increase, that you could see things unravel there.

On the elections,
Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report that the ruling -- which didn't clear the 500-plus candidates of charges, only stated the charges would be evaluated after the election -- is questioned by the electoral commission, will result in Little Nouri meeting with "the Presidency Council, the parliamentary speaker and the top judge on the supreme court" and, if needed, with Parliament Sunday. As Nada Bakri (New York Times) points out, already the conflicting back and forth means that election campaigning is now scheduled to start February 12th and Bakri observes: "The latest escalation in the dispute over who is permitted to run in the elections has unsettled the political landscape. Iraqi law remains untested and perhaps bereft of mechanisms to reach a solution just a month before the vote." Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) covers the issue here. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports that the potential Parliament meeting on Sunday is "an extra-ordinary session" Little Nouri is calling and that, meanwhile, other avenues are being stopped such as yesterday when "the seven-judge appeals panel postponed the review of the demands submitted by some of the banned politicians to check their charges till after the March 7 elections, giving a green light to the banned politicians to run in the elections." Should Little Nouri succeed with the supreme court or the Saturday meeting of the Sunday meeting, the banned candidates will once again have to scramble in an attempt to run for office via appeals -- appeals which have currently been stopped. Pakistan's The News reports Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi stated in DC yesterday, "The decision taken by the appeal committee should be espected by all parties. Hopefully, it will be debated in the parliament but at the end of the day I think nobody (has) the right to block the decision taken by the committee." Alsumaria TV breaks the news that Nouri's decrying the decision as foreign interference and "State of Law Coalition political committee held on Thursday an urgent meeting attended by head of Party Nuri Al Maliki. The meeting discussed the appeals panel decision and political pressure and interference in this regard." The New York Times editorial board offers the suggestion that Iraq 'get on' with the March 7th election:Right now, Mr. Maliki and the Parliament should get on with the campaign. Instead of trying to keep competitors off the ballot, Iraq's leaders should be debating their country's many serious problems and telling voters how they will fix them. For Iraq to be stable and to thrive -- and for American troops to safely go home -- the candidate list, and the next Iraqi government, must represent all of Iraq's people.

In Geneva, the UNHCR's Melissa Fleming today declared:

Following a request by the Iraqi Election Commission (IHEC), UNHCR stands ready to facilitate the participation of Iraqi refugees living in the countries neighbouring Iraq in the forthcoming elections. The 7 March elections are considered to be a major opportunity to consolidate national reconciliation.
As of December 2009, UNHCR had on its records some 300,000 Iraqis who are believed to still be present in the region (including over 210,000 in Syria), of whom close to 190,000 are of voting age. Based on host government sources, the total number of Iraqis in the region is much higher, as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis do not register with UNHCR for a variety of reasons.
In close cooperation with the competent Iraqi authorities and the host governments, UNHCR's assistance will be limited to providing demographic data on the registered Iraqis, informing them of their rights to participate in the elections, and providing logistical support that may be needed for a smooth and orderly election process.

At the US State Department today (link has text and video option), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on the elections.

Lachlan Carmichael (AFP): Just a quick reaction on the charges against the 10 Americans in Haiti. And also if I may add, is the United States studying the idea of withholding recognition of the Iraqi elections in March if the 500 Sunni candidates are excluded? The reason I ask is Vice President Hashimi told a few of us State Department reporters last night that that was the case. He raised it with you and he heard that you're stdying it.

US Secreaty of State Hillary Clinton: Well, first, Lachlan, on the 10 American citizens detained and now charged in Haiti, we are providing consular services. We have full access to them. The American ambassador is speaking with his counterparts in the Haitian Government. Obviously, this is a matter for the Haitian judicial system. We're going to continue to provide support, as we do in every instance like this, to American citizens who have been charged, and hope that this matter can be resolved in an expeditious way. But it is something that a sovereign nation is pursuing, based on the evidence that it presented when charges were announced. With respect to Iraq, we were heartened by the decision earlier this week to reverse the deletion of the 500 names from the election lists for the upcoming election. We care very deeply that this election be free and fair and viewed by -- legitimate by all of the communities within Iraq and by the neighbors. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Iraqis to consolidate their democracy. We have not made any decision about reacting to events that might occur within the context of the elections, but we certainly were heartened by the court decision earlier.

In a follow up, Clinton refused to speculate on what the position would be if the 500-plus candidates were again banned and reiterated the support for the appeals court decision allowing all the candidates to run.
James Hider (Times of London) offers this in terms of the mood and prospects:

The stand-off does not bode well for a country where the security gains of recent years are seen by a deeply traumatised population as fragile and reversible. The streets are filled with heavily armed security forces but suicide bombers manage to negotiate multiple checkpoints with ease.
Many analysts are unsure as to who will emerge victorious from the elections, some touting the pro-Western former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, others believing that Mr al-Maliki may be able to pull together enough backing for a second term.
Waiting in the wings are the Shia Islamist blocs the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrists, with the former hoping that they can clinch the prime minister's office.

Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) speaks to the State Dept's Deputy Secretary Jack Lew who tells him the Dept will be increasing their role in Iraq and a FY2010 supplemental request for $2.1 billion has been made to raise the level of State Dept positions in that country to 664 by September 2010. Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday (this is me, not Rogin) and the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates repeated that State Dept was beefing up their role in Iraq and, asked in the House why the Defense costs in Iraq have not come down, he stated that the hand-over with the State Dept as well as handing things over to Iraqis has resulted in the still large expenditures but that (for the Defense Dept) they would decrease in FY2011.

Yesterday's snapshot noted the US House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Wally, filling in for Rebecca, noted Chair Bob Filner's joke to the Ranking Member ("A hearing, a joke, a non-starting election") and Trina provided an overview and critique of the hearing ("The budget, our dollars"). Kat ("Collen Murphy wants the truth about daughter's death") noted Staff Sgt Amy Seyboth Tirador died November 4th while serving in Iraq. Jessica M. Pasko (Troy Record) reports that Colleen Murphy believes "the military is covering up the real cause" of her daughter's death and that the military is in the midst of 'creating' and 'amplifying' minor issues in order to make the death appear a suicide. Collen Murphy stated, "No one that knew Amy would believe that she'd ever commit suicide. In my opinion, it was a set-up. It was premeditated, and it was the perfect set-up."

Also in the news this week has been Don't Ask, Don't Tell which garnered a great deal of media attention following Tuesday's Senate Armed Services hearing. For coverage, see Tuesday's "
Iraq snapshot," Trina's "Senate Armed Services Committee DADT," Wally's"Armed Services Committee, Heroes," Kat's "Barack pretends to care about Don't Ask Don't Tell," Marica's "Not doing cartwheels right now," Betty's "Barack tries to trick big donors" and Marcia's "And they wonder why American voters are cyncial." Yesterday, James Hohmann (Politico) reported that US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is saying that actual voting on repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell probably won't take place until November 2010 at the earliest -- doing little to dispell the critique that the whole thing was a song and dance effort by Democrats to trick Big Donors who have decided to Just Say No while the policy is Don't Ask, Don't Tell into donating again -- just in time for the mid-term fundraising. While Nancy and others may have time for fun and games, there are people's lives at stake here -- people who've put their lives on hold, people who dream of getting back into the military and people who fear being outed and kicked out of the military. NPR's Ina Jaffee (Morning Edition, link has audio and text) tells the stories of veterans like Julianne Sohn who was a ramine until she was kicked out under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and she says, "Serving my country was a huge honor, and I was willing to sacrifice my personal life to go into the Marine Corps. [. . .] I was out to some of my close friends . . . these are lieutenants and captains . . . but a lot of them didn't care. All that really matters is getting the job done."

In London, the
Iraq Inquiry resumes public hearings Monday when they are scheduled to hear from Gen John McColl followed by (in a return appearance) Jack Straw. Hearings concluded for the week on Wednesday but might as well have stopped on Tuesday after Clare Short's testimony to judge by the media's focus (that would be non-US media since US media has largely ignored the hearings). Last Friday, Tony Blair testified and those not talking about just Clare Short were often also talking about Tony Blair. Peter Biles (BBC News) covers Short's Tuesday testimony today, "She swept into the QEII Centre on the arm of one of the officials, but the former international development secretary needed no help. She had come, not for her day in court exactly, but to place on record an outpouring of anger that has been festering for the past seven years." Alan Cowell (New York Times) offers a column on Blair's testimony. Unlike Cowell, Dan Milmo (Guardian) notes today how Blair was heckled last week. Blair's inane testimony was called out by Short (called out and corrected by Short) and there's been other developments this week. As noted in Wednesday's snapshot: ". . . Elfyn Llwyd on Clare Short's assertion that Blair was frantic to support the US. Tomas Livingstone (Wales News) reports MP Elfyn Llwyd has stated that the the 2002 Crawford ranch meeting is where Blair and Bush agreed to go to war -- no hesistations, no ifs, just to go to war. He tells Livingstone that a memo exists noting this agreement and that he will gladly testify before the Inquiry eitehr in private or in person." Today BBC News reports:

The leader of Plaid Cymru's MPs has said he has a memo showing Tony Blair and George Bush struck a secret deal to invade Iraq a year before the 2003 war.
Elfyn Llwyd told the BBC's Straight Talk he had written to Iraq Inquiry chair Sir John Chilcot to say he would be prepared to hand the document over.
He said the memo, which is marked "Top Secret and Confidential" contradicted statements made by Mr Blair.

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):Has the Democratic Party abandoned support of reproductive rights? Next on NOW. To gain their historic control of Congress, Democrats fielded moderate candidates who didn't always follow the party line, especially when it came to abortion. Now that the Democratic Party has the legislative upper hand, are they willing to negotiate away reproductive rights for other political gains? On Friday, February 5 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW goes to Allentown, Pennsylvania to ask: Are abortion rights now in jeopardy at the very hands of the party that has historically protected them? Among those interviewed are pro-life Democratic U.S. Representative Bart Stupak and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean. "If there was a bill on the floor to reverse Roe vs Wade, and says 'life begins at conception,' I would vote for it." Congressman Stupak tells NOW. Jen Boulanger, director of the often-protested Allentown Women's Center, says, "I would expect more from the Democratic Party, to stick to their ideals, not just throw us to the curb." Has the Democratic Party traded principles for power? Next on NOW. Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Michael Duffy (Time magazine), Martha Raddatz (ABC News) and Pete Williams (NBC News) . Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Andrea Pennington, Tara Setmayer and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes doesn't air this Sunday but returns February 14th.

xinhuafang yangafpchelsea j. carteral jazeera
the new york timesanthony shadidthe los angeles timesliz slycaesar ahmed
the pasadena weeklyjake armstrong
nprthe diane rehm show
cnnelise labott
yochi j. dreazen
bryan bender
the washington postleila fadelaziz alwanthe new york timesnada bakrixinhuamu xuequanabcanne barker
the christian science monitorjane arrafthe news
bbc newsgabriel gatehouse
peter biles
james hider
the times of london
the troy recordjessica m. pasko
morning editionina jaffe
60 minutescbs newspbsnow on pbsto the contrarybonnie erbe

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Connect the Dots

Sunny informed me e-mails came in about Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett. Specifically, was I not doing it anymore?

I honestly forgot. I did listen. When Sunny told me about the e-mails, my plan was to go to the KPFK archives and listen to Monday's show again but I didn't have time.

The last guest was a Congress member. Eric Massa. I remember that. I remember the first guest -- whom I have met a few times -- but forget her name and I can't even remember the guest between them.

But I will write about the show tonight.

For those wondering why or those suggesting I don't, I do believe in giving credit where it's due. Lila's first segment (after her monologue) was her finest. She stuck to her guns. That health scare scam was a rip off and, thankfully, it's dead. It's not coming back. Ignore the hype.

We wanted single-payer. Some were willing to be happy with just a weak public option that would act as a test pilot. But it was all nonsense and Lila got that across today.

Her guest (I keep hoping the woman's name will leap to my mind but I have a nasty, tension headache) was on to discuss Social Security (Betty! First name Betty! I can see her and maybe I'll remember her last name. I met her when she was in Congress at some mixer. I was dating someone in Congress at the time. I don't just date legislators, for those who wonder. ).

So Betty was discussing Social Security (which Barack will be attacking, Lila is right, and we plan to tackle that at Third). Somehow, I don't remember now, the topic turned briefly to health care. Lila was very clear that she was opposed to the scam Barack was pushing. Betty did an "Oh, no, not really" type response. Then she started saying that we had to have it. It would be a step.

Lila stuck to her guns and pointed out that universal coverage is not making 25 million people who cannot afford health insurance right now to go out and buy policies.

She is right and that's the most offensive part of the policy. The working poor are the ones who are going to be hurt. The extreme poor will get some sort of subsidy (or would have, under the now failed plan) but the working poor would have been out in the cold.

It did not do anything and we do not need it.

Good for Lila Garrett for saying so.

Good for her for sticking to her guns even when Betty played "disappointed."

Betty also wanted to say that we wouldn't get single-payer and Lila didn't just let that slide by. She challenged that as well.

So Lila Garrett did a very good job and I wish I didn't have such a nasty headache or I'd write about that some more.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 3, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed with another deadly blast, the Iraq Inquiry may be hitting the road (that is not a joke), sexual assaults get some attention from the US Congress, election news out of Iraq, and more.

Iraq has been slammed with another bombing resulting in mass fatalities today.
Yousif Bassil and CNN report a Karbala motorcycle bombing has claimed 20 lives and left at least one-hundred-and-seventeen people wounded. Tom Bonnet (Sky News) notes that, "Women and children were among the dead after the explosives-packed vehicle blasted through the crowd on the outskirts of Kerbala, 68 miles south of Baghdad." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) cites Iraq's al-Iraqiya TV's report that the bombing took place "near the Institute of Art" and says the death toll and wounded numbers are coming from the Ministry of the Interior. Al Jazeera says the motorcycle bombing was actually a suicide bomber on a motorcycle and quotes Saad al-Muttalibi ("an adviser to the Iraqi council of ministers") stating, "The security forces need to be more proactive and more aggressive in fighting these Wahhabi groups. The prime minister [Nouri al-Maliki] hands are completely tied, putting him in a very weak position to question his ministers and hold them accountable for their misconduct." Leila Fadel and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) report, "At 11 a.m. Wednesday, a parked motorcycle loaded with explosives detonated, ripping through a crowd of walking pilgrims on the city's northeast perimeter, a source from the Ministry of the Interior in Baghdad said. [. . .] The scene of the carnage, near the Technical Institute, remained blocked off Wednesday afternoon. Vehicles were stopped on the outskirts of the city and pilgrims walked the rest of the way." Citing police sources, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the death toll is 21 and the number wounded 128. Issa notes that some say it was a parked car, Muhanad Mohammed, Sami al-Jumaili, Ahmed Rasheed, Aseel Kami, Jack Kimball and Michael Christie (Reuters) note that others say the bomb was in a cart the motorcycle pulled.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three people wounded, a second Baghdad roadside bombing resulted in three people being injured, a Twereej bicycle bombing left twenty-two people injured and, dropping back to Tuesday for all that follows, a Hamdaniyah roadside bombing left four people injured and a Mosul bombing (homemade grenade) wounded one police officer and one bystander. Reuters notes a Tuesday night Kerbala sticky bombing ("attached to a military vehicle") which claimed 3 lives and left twenty-one people injured.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion in which 1 person was killed. Reuters notes 1 police officer shot dead in Kirkuk.

Al Jazeera's Riz Khan yesterday, the issue of the elections were addressed with Riz Khan asking, "How free and fair is an election when a government bans certain people from running? Iraq goes to the polls on March the 7th but has barred more than 500 candidates which could ultimately plunge the country into chaos, even civil war." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports today that the government has managed to avert "a political crisis of its own making" as a result of the ban being overturned today "by a panel of seven judges". The Economist calls it "Best news in weeks." Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) explains, "The decision now opens the way for full-fledged campaigning to begin, as scheduled, on February 7. It wasn't immediately clear how many of the banned candidates would accept the compromise decision, or how the decision might affect the election outcome itself." Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "But if the ruling stands, there's a catch: those blacklisted will still be subject to investigation after the vote for past ties to the regime of Saddam Hussein." And what would happen then? Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) observe, "Election Commission official Hamdia al-Husseini told Agence France-Presse that those later found to have links to the Baath Party would be 'eliminated.'" Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports, "The ruling enraged the architect of the blacklist, Ali Faisal al-Lami, who is a close aide of the head of the former ­de-Ba'athification Commission, Ahmed Chalabi. That commission, which was a signature body of the post-Saddam Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), evolved into a contentious group known as the Accountability and Justice Commission." And to clear up a nasty rumor, there is no known sex tape of Ahmed Chalabi and his boy pal Ali al-Lami being distributed in Basra. Absolutely not. Nasty, hurtful rumors. Unless a tape should surface. Ammar Karim (AFP) notes, "Chalabi, who has close ties to Iran, was appointed deputy prime minister after the invasion but intelligence he provided in support of those claims in the run-up to war later turned out to be flawed and he subsequently fell out of favour with Washington." The decision is still being studied and Al Jazeera notes Saleh al-Mutlaq, of the sectarian National Dialogue Party and who was one of the banned, "declined to give an immediate comment." al-Mutlaq did have a comment on Chalabi when he appeared yesterday on Al Jazeera.

Riz Khan: Let me ask you then how you regard the role of Ahmed Chalabi who's the head of the de-Ba'athification commission? I mean, he's, uh, is he conducting a witch hunt? Is he trying to basically exclude those he doesn't like, his political enemies? Is he arbitarily picking those he doesn't want taking part in the election here?

Saleh al-Mutlaq: Ahmed Chalabi deceived the whole world and deceived the United States and convinced them some, some years ago that there was mass destruction equipment in Iraq. And he led, I mean he convinced the United States to go -- to invade Iraq. And now he's also leading a project to destroy Iraq again -- to destroy Iraq by letting people lose hope in this political process and go to the violence again. To bring us back to the first square. So Ahmed Chalabi is a very dangerous person. Ahmed Chalabi is wanted by the Jordanian government and if the United States is serious enough, they should remove the cover from him and then he will be taken by -- he will, he will be in jail for the rest of his life because he's been wanted by the law. But unfortunately he's being protected in this country. Ahmed Chalabi is not doing his own agenda but an outside agenda which he is the agent to do it in Iraq and nobody is stopping him from this-this decision.

The de-Ba'athification policy was implemented by Paul Bremer and he states (no reason to doubt him -- despite Colin Powell's whispers to the press) that he did so at the direction of the White House. Paul Bremer is mentiioned in the
Iraq Inquiry more than any other American (that includes Bush, Tommy Franks, Condi Rice, Blot Powell and all the rest). After the start of the illegal war, in May of 2003, Tony Blair named Ann Clwyd to be England's special envoy on human rights to Iraq. We'll jump in at this section of her testimony today where she is speaking about the job and what she brought to the job.

But obviously I saw it -- because of my contact with Iraqis over the years, you know, I now knew people that were in government in Iraq, like the President Jalal Talabani, like Latif Rashid, the Water Resources Minister, Hoshyar Zerbari, the Foreign Minister, and many, many others who had been members of CARDRI and who had support INDICT, Hamid Al-Bayati and others. So I felt that I did have a particular friendship with those Iraqis and that, if I could help in improving the culture of the perception of human rights in Iraq, that really that should be one of the main issues, because obviously, you know, a country that has been absued for 35 years, human rights is not a phrase that trips lightly over the lips. So I felt -- and I still feel actually -- it takes a long time to change those perceptions -- it can't be done in a short time -- and so I started -- I also -- originally, detention issues was not in my terms of reference, but I did argue that they should be, because, you know, I knew that what happened to people in detention needed an outside voice to actually blow the whistle on occasions, and so there was some resistance but eventually it was put into my terms of reference. So, of course, I started visiting prisons, I talked a lot to Americans, because the Americans were sharing the same building in Baghdad at that time and Mr Bremer was in charge of the operation there and the British were there and so we talked about some of these issues. One of the first things that struck me was -- because, again, because of my friendship with Iraqis, one of my Iraqi friends had [been] a General in Saddam's army. He was now in a staff college, but he was a General, and immediately after 2003, my friend rang me up and he said, "Do you know what is happening with the military? Because there are lots of the military that my brother knows who would help the British. There are 50 to 100 senior Iraqi officers who are ready to help the coalition." Well, obviously, I passed that information on. But, you know, the army wasn't there anymore, but they were queuing up in very hot weather for their pensions, for their stipends, and I discovered that the man -- the brother of my friend had been queuing up every day for two weeks, and he was a senior, you know, army officer, and yet had nevr got to the front of the queue. He said -- I spoke to him eventually, and he said to me, you know, "If they want to humiliate us, this is the way of doing it." [. . .] So I was telling the Americans and the British but the Americans were mainly in charge in Baghdad and so I would go straight to Bremer and tell Bremer what was going on and he argued with me. He said, "Oh, nonsense, all the -- you know, the senior people have received their pensions". So I said, "Well, they haven't". So I gave him the name and address of the person I was talking about, and somebody went away and came back half an hour later and said, "Sorry, they must have slipped through the net". Well, I think many people slipped through the net actually, senior people, who could have been used in those early stages to help the coalition and wanted to help the coalition.

At the end of Clwyd's testiomony, Chair John Chilcot declared of Iraq: "We do hope very much to visit. We can't commit yet. To visit Iraq before our Inquiry is complete."

We'll come back to today but right now,
yesterday, Clare Short testified to the Iraq Inquiry and covering the Inquiry in this community last night were Mike ("Tony Blair gets served"), Stan ("Grab bag") and Elaine ("Clare Short at the Inquiry"). One of the few US outlets to regularly devote attention to the Inquiry is The Pacifica Evening News which airs on KPFA and KPFK (as well as other stations) from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. each Monday through Friday.

John Hamilton: Former British Minister Clare Short accused Tony Blair of lying over the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and stifling discussion in the Cabinet in the run up to the war. Short is a long time critic of Blair who served as International Development Secretary in his government. She disputed evidence the former prime minister gave last week to an inquiry into the war. Short voted of the 2003 invasion but quit Blair's government shortly afterwards because she said Blair had conned her into thinking the UN would play a lead war in post-war Iraq. Speaking today before the Chilcot Inquiry, which is examining Britain's role in the war and its aftermath, Short accused the former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith of not telling the Cabinet of his doubts about the illegality of the war nor that senior Foreign Office lawyers believed it would be illegal without a second UN resolution on Iraq.

Clare Short: I think for the Attorney General to come and say there's an unequivocal legal authority to go to war was misleading. And I must say, I never saw myself as a traditionalist but I was stunned by it because of what was in the media about the view of the international lawyers but I thought "This is the Attorney General coming just in the teeth of war, to the Cabinet, it must be right." And I think he was misleading us.

John Hamilton: Goldsmith has said he initially doubted the war's legality and only concluded it would be lawful without such a resolution a week before the invasion -- days before the Cabinet was briefed. Short told the Inquiry today she believed Goldsmith had been pressured by Blair -- something that both men deny -- but she had no direct evidence to back this up. Last Friday, Blair defended his decision to go to war telling the Inquiry that Saddam Hussein had posed a threat to the world and had to be disarmed or removed. He said there had been substantive discussions with senior ministers in the Cabinet but Short told the Inquiry that she had been excluded from talks and that Blair had not wanted Iraq discussed in the Cabinet because he was afraid of leaks to the media .
Clare Short: There was never a meeting that said: "What's the problem, what are we trying to achieve? What are our military, diplomatic options?" We never had that coherent discussion of what it is that the problem is and what it was that the government was trying to achieve and what our bottom lines were. Never.

John Hamilton: Short accused Blair of being frantic to support the United States and said claims the French would have vetoed any second UN resolution in authorizing military action had been untrue.

We're stopping there, not because Hamilton's made a mistake (they did a fine job as usual in covering the Inquiry) but because we are short on space and we can move over to Elfyn Llwyd on Clare Short's assertion that Blair was frantic to support the US.
Tomas Livingstone (Wales News) reports MP Elfyn Llwyd has stated that the the 2002 Crawford ranch meeting is where Blair and Bush agreed to go to war -- no hesistations, no ifs, just to go to war. He tells Livingstone that a memo exists noting this agreement and that he will gladly testify before the Inquiry eitehr in private or in person.

On Clare Short, you can refer to
Iain Martin (Wall St. Journal -- he doesn't like Short and doesn't believe her, he's been covering the Inquiry regularly so we will link to him), Simon Hooper and CNN, Jason Beattie (Daily Mail -- always an outstanding job of coverage by Beattie), Iraq Inquiry Blogger offers thoughts here, Rosa Prince (Irish Independent via Independent of London), David Brown (Times of London), John F. Burns (New York Times), Philip Williams (AM which airs on Australia's ABC) and Mark Hennessy (Irish Times). If someone was omitted (especially someone requesting to be included), I either forgot or made a judgment call that you do not matter. Which is one reporter we'll be noting in a bit (not naming, not linking to) and which is one web site that wants a link but is too damn lazy to blog about the Inquiry so they post a paragraph of John F. Burns' report and then say 'read the rest at the New York Times'. Honestly, the Gabor sisters worked harder so I think we should all lay off comparing you know who to a Gabor sister.

The Inquiry continued today.
Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger gives this run down of the witnesses: "Sir Kevin Tebbit returns for a brief spin to round off evidence about his period as MoD Permanent Secretary 2001-05. Dr John Reid has served many different government briefs but attends today as Secretary of State for Defence 2005-06, effectively completing our MoD card-hand after Geoff Hoon, John Hutton & Des Browne. And Ann Clywd worked as the prime minister's (or rather prime ministers') special envoy to Iraq from 2003-09." Video and transcript options for the three witnesses here. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogged today's hearing at Twitter and Sky News' Glen Oglaza live blogged John Reid's testimony.

Gary Gibbon (Channel 4 News) reports that Tebbit stated the current Prime Minister of England, Gordon Brown, "guillotined" the military budget when he was serving as chancellor: "Sir Kevin, who was MoD permanent secretary from 1998 to 2005, stressed that defence chiefs saved resources needed for Iraq but admitted the cuts had a long-term impact." Sky News reports he stated, "The Treasury felt that we were using far too much cash and in September 2003 the Chancellor of the day (Mr Brown) instituted a complete guillotine on our settlement. It meant that we had to go in for a very major savings exercise in order to cope with what was effectively a billion reduction year-on-year in our resource." In what would appear to back up that testimony, Francis Elliott, Deborah Haynes and Tom Coghlan (Times of London) report, "Gordon Brown demanded immediate and deep cuts to military spending only six months after the invasion of Iraq, a letter seen by The Times reveals."

Biggest laugh in England today? The reach around between eternal suck up Petey Kyle and his uber dom Alastair Campbell. In the internet version of snowballing, Petey sucks him off and spits it back in Alastair's mouth -- Petey writes that it's awful, just awful (no link to that trash -- and Labour better get it through their heads that apologists like Petey are going to mean death at the polls) how the media's treated poor Tony Blair. He writes it, Alastair reposts it at his vanity blog and then they both Tweet on it. Somebody get those two to the chapel already. No links, they've echoed one another enough. Also of note, a certain reporter for a non-right wing paper, non-Murdoch paper, who repeatedly reports wrong on the Inquiry? Maybe his editors should ask him about his contact with Alastair because Alastair's bragging to Labour Party members that he has said reporter in his pocket. Very few are covering it in the US.
Kelly B. Vlahos (Antiwar) notes some of the silence:
Don't know much about any of this? Not surprising, because the American mainstream media has practically blacked-out the story on this side of the pond. It's amazing, after seven years and a growing reservoir of evidence that the Bush administration deliberately manipulated intelligence and the emotions of the American public to invade Iraq -- for which it had no comprehensive plan to stabilize or reconstruct -- the corporate press is still doing its best impression of the debauched idiots in
The Hangover:
Stu: "Why don't we remember a G**damn thing from last night?"
Phil: "Obviously because we had a great f**king time."
When the press isn't treating us all like morning-after marshmallows who would prefer a cold-compress of Sarah Palin and updates of
The View on the head to a clinical X-ray of how the Bush White House marched our nation into a trillion-dollar war of choice, it takes on a gratingly condescending tone. In fact, the media view jibes quite well with the standard Republican spin: that any criticism or inquiry into party-supported policies from 2001 to 2009 is "looking backward" or "rehashing the past," or worse, "we've been there, done that," when really, no, there hasn't been any "been there, done that," not anything compared to what's going on in London right now.

Turning to Iraq,
Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports an agreement reached between Iraq and China in which China would "write off 80 percent of Iraq's" $8.5 billion debt. In other agreements Iraq is entering into with other countries, Anne Tang (Xinhua) reports Iraq declares it is willing to turn 46 Jordanian prisoners over to Jordan and notes the Arab Organization for Human Rights, "According to the organization, there are 46 Jordanians jailed in Iraq, of whom many are held with no charges and are either students or traders." While those talks between Iraq and other governments continue, Today's Zaman reports the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, is in Ankara meeting with Turkey's Interior Minister Besir Atalay. Alsumaria TV quotes Odierno stating, "It is important that we develop a common unerstanding of the root causes of violence, so we can assit in determining political, economic and security measures that will contribute to increased security and safety of the Turkish and Iraqi people." Scott Fontaine (The Olympian) reports on increased tensions between US forces and Iranian forces on the Iraqi border.

Yesterday in the US, the Senate Armed Services Committee spent a little over an hour addressing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. All three broadcast networks' evening news covered the story. Some did better than others. We'll note highlights. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams:Brian Williams: 62 years ago today, President Truman ordered the Defense Secretary to take the needed steps to remove discrimination in the military. He was talking about race. Today the topic was sexual orientation, specifically the Clinton era policy known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- a policy that is now on borrowed time. More on this story from our Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. Jim Miklaszewski: In a hearing today on Capitol Hill, the nation's top military commander revealed the worst kept secret in the armed services. Adm Mike Mullen: I have served with homosexuals since 1968.Jim Miklaszewski: Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen said it's time to scrap Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the law that prohibits gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military.
Picking up with
ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer:

Martha Raddatz: Lt Dan Choi is a West Point graduate, an Iraq veteran and one of the few Arabic speakers in the military. Like thousands of others, he now faces dismissal from the army for saying publicly that he is gay.Lt Dan Choi: I was living in the closet. Then I realized, no, this is really a violation of the honor code which, on the first day of West Point, we learned: You will not lie or tolerate those who lie. And I believe in that honor code.Martha Raddatz: Lt Choi's case is still pending but he also told us if you're actually thinking about national security first and you're saying that it's okay to fire Arabic speakers because somebody's uncomfortable with gays, then you have your priorities in the wrong place.
And wrapping up with
CBS Evening News with Katie Couric::

David Martin: Today's testimony made clear it will not happen any time soon -- certainly not this year, if at all. For one thing, Gates wants a year to study . . ..Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: What the-the men and women in our armed forces really think about this.David Martin: For another, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a law enacted by Congress.Senator John McCain: I'm happy to say that we still have a Congress of the United States that would have to pass a law to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. David Martin: Right now with the military fighting two wars, there are not enough votes to repeal.

PBS' NewsHour, like Diane Sawyer, led with the issue while the other two broadcasts buried the story further into the mix. Margaret Warner offered the best report of any of the correspondents. She also offered more variety in her report when quoting from the hearing -- except for Jim, all the above reports had quoted from the opening statements plus Saxby Chambliss -- and why did everyone Click here for transcript as well as audio and video options of Warner's report. We covered the hearing in yesterday's snapshot and other community coverage: Wally was at the hearing and guest blogged at Rebecca's site with "Armed Services Committee, Heroes" and, like Warner, he quoted from Burris -- who probably had the strongest and most moving remarks. Trina focused on Mike Mullen's opening remarks "Senate Armed Services Committee DADT" -- and Trina's take is like David Martin's, nothing's happening. That was our take based on the hearing and based on speaking to a few aids and senators after the hearing. You can especially see that in Kat's "Barack pretends to care about Don't Ask Don't Tell." Marcia takes this issue very personally and quizeed all of us (including Ava) at length before writing about it in "Not doing cartwheels right now."

Today the House Armed Services' Military Personnel Subcomittee held a hearing where the witnesses were Louis V. Iasiello and Brig Gen Sharon K.G. Dunbar of the Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services and, as noted, the two were present speaking on behalf of the Defense Task Force, not for any branch of the military. Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis called the hearing to order and noted that they held two hearings on this issue last year in addition, she stated:

I do not want to steal the thunder of our witnesses, but there is a recurring theme in their report that needs to be mentioned from the outset while the [Defense] Department has done much in recent years to address sexual assault in the military, much more remains to be done. Thankfully, due to the work of this task force and others, we have a much clearer understanding of the problem. It is important that we make significant improvements to how the Department deals with sexual assault and that we do all we can to avoid inadvertently making things worse in the process. Sexual assault within the ranks is antithetical to the trust and camaraderie that defines military culture. Any sexual assault undermines the moral foundation of our armed forces and does irreparable harm to unit cohesion. Hopefully today's hearing will help us chart a legislative course to make progress in our goal to eliminate sexual assaults in the military.

We'll note this exchange which took place after opening statements.

Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis: One of the recommendations that you've had -- and especially as we move forward -- is to place a sexual assault prevention and response office under the Deputy Secretary of Defense for at least a year and you thought that would give them a chance to kind of aprise what is happening. Our experience has been that they just aren't really in a position to-to be able to do that. It's not the staff -- they're not designed for that kind of oversight. I'm wondering if you've had any additional thoughts about that? If you feel that -- if you looked at that and felt that this was the only way to give this a kind of stature perhaps that we're looking for? There is a concern that they're just not ready to do that. We had an experience as well with oversight of the process at Walter Reed. You know there's really a lot of questions as to whether that's the best place to put this additional responsiblity and for oversight?

Louis V. Iasiello: It was our-our thought as we put forward that recommendation that after 2005, each of the services sort of took off in their own direction trying to answer this issue and trying to confront this issue in the best way possible and we applaud that initiative that each of the services took in sort of taking this forward.but-but what I think I speak for the Task Force membership when I say that we would really like to see a strategic leadership role taken by the SAPRO office at the DoD. That would help to bring together these incredible efforts that we see now from the leadership of the different services. [. . .]

Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis: think what we're just wondering is if a decision was made that perhaps they don't have the ability now, the capacity, to provide the kind of oversight that we're really seeking here, was there some other thoughts about how this might be done? What I think I hear you say very strongly is that you want to have more authority, more oversight and certainly raise the level of -- I'm not sure that the word is competency, I think it's the capacity to deal better and to be seen as an office that really means exactly what it says
here and we're struggling a little bit to sort of define that better

Brig Gen Sharon KG Dunbar: Yes, ma'am, I think the intent behind the recommendation is to provide higher oversight and I think that there are a number of ways to do that. The recommendation was geared to highlight the fact that that oversight is necessary. And so that it one recommendation but there are clearly other ways of doing that. And we indicated in the report one of the areas that we found a shortcoming in was just in the staffing alone of the SAPRO office in order for it to do what is required. And I think when you look at some of the issues that drove that recommendation it stemmed from the under resource nature in terms of staffing the office that, frankly, if you go back to the inception of the office, it was geared more towards response. And now it needs to expand into prevention training and other areas and in order to do that quickly, higher level oversight at a level whether it is the level recommended in the report or elsewhere, we believe is prudent.

Louis V. Iasiello: And if I may, we see it as critically importnat that there be uniformed members as part of that staff. People in uniform. And people that have had the experience of leading and understand. We are also asking for a seasoned JAG officer from one of the military services to be part of that staff and to have a designated Victim Advocate on staff with the expertise to handle the issues at that strategic level.

Subcommittee Chair Susan Davis: I was going to ask if there are professionals and you mention the JAG officer experience level, education level that you feel would contribute greatly to that kind of stature and authority that the -- that it would have. Is there anything in addition to that?

Brig Gen Sharon K.G. Dunbar: Principally the leadership of the office and the recommendation that we make is that it be led by a General Flag Officer or a civilian equivalent.

You can check other community sites tonight for coverage -- Trina, Wally and Kat were at the hearing as well (Kat plans to cover US House Rep Loretta Sanchez). TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):Has the Democratic Party abandoned support of reproductive rights? Next on NOW. To gain their historic control of Congress, Democrats fielded moderate candidates who didn't always follow the party line, especially when it came to abortion. Now that the Democratic Party has the legislative upper hand, are they willing to negotiate away reproductive rights for other political gains? On Friday, February 5 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW goes to Allentown, Pennsylvania to ask: Are abortion rights now in jeopardy at the very hands of the party that has historically protected them? Among those interviewed are pro-life Democratic U.S. Representative Bart Stupak and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean. "If there was a bill on the floor to reverse Roe vs Wade, and says 'life begins at conception,' I would vote for it." Congressman Stupak tells NOW. Jen Boulanger, director of the often-protested Allentown Women's Center, says, "I would expect more from the Democratic Party, to stick to their ideals, not just throw us to the curb." Has the Democratic Party traded principles for power? Next on NOW.

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kelley b. vlahosantiwar

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Clare Short at the Inquiry

The Iraq Inquiry continued today in London and they heard from Clare Short, who is a Member of Parliament and was also a member of Tony Blair's Cabinet. Short is familiar to peace and anti-war types. I am noting a section of her testimony.

Clare Short: In the case of Iraq, there was secretiveness and deception on top of that. So I heard Tony Blair talking when he gave evidence to you about an ad hoc committee with a small "a" and small "h". I simply don't accept that. There were no minutes. It is just not a proper way to proceed. If you are discussing things that other departments are supposed to know about and are supposed to be preparing for, and they are completely excluded from the discussion and don't know what the government is planning, I think this is a chaotic way of doing things.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: You don't think that they were really looking at a range of options and at all the possible risks in this course.

RT HON CLARE SHORT MP: I presume you are looking at the leaked documents. The Downing Street memo now tells it all; that Blair had given his word that he was in favour of regime change and would be with Bush.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: We will come back to that, but you could see who the people were around the Prime Minister advising him, although, clearly, you weren't one of
them. But wasn't this a group that was pretty expert and diverse? Did it have expertise in the Middle East?

RT HON CLARE SHORT MP: Well, one, I didn't know they were meeting, two, it is an ingroup. That's the way Number 10 worked. You keep Tony's favour and Alistair
doesn't brief against you, if you do whatever they want, and challenge is the opposite. Indeed, I have a friend who was doing research at the time, and therefore interviewing people at Number 10, and a message came back to me that I shouldn't keep challenging in the Cabinet. I was making myself unpopular.

There is not enough coverage of the Iraq Inquiry. C.I. covers it, I'm not talking about her. I'm talking about the US press -- big and small.

I will note John F. Burns' New York Times report. I called C.I. to check and Burns has covered the Inquiry before (I thought he had but I knew C.I. would know for sure).

Ms. Short, who quit as international development minister two months after the invasion in 2003, repeatedly accused Mr. Blair of “misleading” her and other cabinet ministers about the advice he was getting from government lawyers who questioned the legality of invading Iraq.
On that issue, and on her written warnings of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the invasion’s wake, she said that Mr. Blair had effectively circumvented cabinet debate. Instead, she said, he had relied on an inner circle of “his mates” in government, having “little chats” with outsiders like herself and plying what she called a “poodle-like” relationship with the United States.
She also accused Mr. Blair of deceit in his argument shortly before the invasion that France had said that it would veto a so-called “second resolution” in the United Nations Security Council approving military action against Iraq, and that it would not shift from that position under any circumstances. That allowed Mr. Blair to say he had exhausted the diplomatic possibilities for dealing with Mr. Hussein and cleared the way for fulfilling his pledge to fight at America’s side.

Again, Burns has covered it before and good for him but we really should see more people stepping out. I would not hope to see Amy Goodman cover it since she has consistently refused to do a segment on it. People protest? She's not concerned. Blair's asked some tough questions? She's not interested. She's just not interested.

Message received.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, February 2, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry continues in England, Clare Short tells the Inquiry, "We have made Iraq more dangerous as well as causing enormous suffering and diminishing our reputation," Iraq's Sunni vice president visits US officials, a US Senate Committee addresses Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and more.

Starting in London, where the
Iraq Inquiry continued public hearings today. Appearing before the committee were Clare Short, Hilary Benn and Peter Ricketts (link goes to video and transcript options). As Committee Chair John Chilcot explained at the start of the hearing, Short "was Secretary of State for International Development from 1997 until May 2003, when you resigned over the Iraq question."

Up to this point, one narrative emerging from all the testimony is that Blair portrayed one reality to one group and another to a second group. If you were on the inside, you testified you didn't think a second UN resolution was necessary [1441 only authorized inspections, there was no resoultion autorizing the war]. If you were part of the Cabinet or advisers but not of sufficient War Hawk statutory, you were in the other group. And if you were Peter Goldsmith (Attorney General), you were brow beat and bullied until you changed your legal advice. One group was unconcerned about a second UN resolution because they knew, despite Tony Blair's posturing, he wasn't interested in getting a second resolution.

With that narrative in mind, Clare Short's testimony is even more damning than many might have expected. Asking about "the machinery of government," Committee Member Roderic Lyne noted of the legal issues of war, "You said it wasn't substantive discussion, Mr Blair said it was. It is a Cabinet of which you were a member. Then these decisions were endorsed by the House of Commons, of which you are still a member."

MP Clare Short: The first thing to say is that I noticed Tony Blair in his evidence to you, kept saying "I had to decide, I had to decide", and, indeed, that's how he behaved, but that is not meant to be our system of government. It is meant to be a Cabinet system, because, of course, if you had a presidential system, you would put better checks into the legislature. So we were getting -- his view that he decided, him and his mates around him, the ones that he could trust to do whatever it was he decided, and then the closing down of normal communications and then this sort of drip feed of little chats to the Cabinet. Now, that's a machinery of government question and there is a democratic question, but, also, there is a competence of decision-making question, because I think, if you do things like that, and they are not challenged and they are not thought through, errors are made, and I think we have seen the errors.

Short rejected the idea that the Cabinet endorsed the war and declared, "I think he misled the Cabinet. He certainly misled me, but people let it through."

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Sorry, who misled the Cabinet?

MP Clare Short: The Attorney General. I think now we know everything we know about his doubts and his changes of opinion and what the Foreign Office legal advisers were saying and that he had got this private side deal that Tony Blair said there was a material breach when Blix was saying he needed more time. I think for the Attorney General to come and say there is an unequivocal legal authority to go to war was misleading, and I must say, I never saw myself as a traditionalist, but I was stunned by it, because of what was in the media about the view of international lawyers, but I thought, "This is the Attorney General coming just in the teeth of war to the Cabinet. It must be right", and I think he was misleading us.

Short is also of the opinion that Peter Goldsmith was leaned on.

MP Clare Short: I noticed that Lord Goldsmith [in his testimony to the Inquiry] said he was excluded from lots of meetings. That is a form of pressure. Exclusion is a form of pressure. Then, that he was -- it was suggested to him that he go to the United States to get advice about the legal position. Now we have got the Bush administration, with very low respect for international law. It seems the most extraordinary place in the world to go and get advice about international law. To talk to Jeremy Greenstock, who -- I'm surprised by his advice. I think to interpret 1441 to say you have got to come back to the Security Council for an assessment of whether Saddam Hussein is complying, but there shouldn't be a decision in the Security Council, is extraordinarily Jesuitical. I have never understood it before, and I think that's nonsense, and it wasn't the understanding of the French and so on, because I saw the French Ambassador later. So I think all that was leaning on, sending him to America, excluding him and then including him, and I noticed the chief legal adviser in the Foreign Office said in his evidence that he had sent something and Number 10 wrote, "Why is this in writing?" I think that speaks volumes about the way they were closing down normal communication systems in Whitehall.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: But there was a critical week before the conflict started on 20 March. It was on 13 March that Lord Goldsmith came into his office and told his officials that, on balance, he had come to the view that the better view was that the revival argument could be revived without a further determination by the Security Council. I suppose the question is: in the days before 13 March, specifically, was he subjected to pressure? Was this a decision not reached purely on legal grounds? Now, he said not, Mr Blair effectively has said not. Do you have any evidence that, in that period, pressures were applied of a non-legal kind to the Attorney General? He had legal discussions with the Americans in February, but I'm talking about the period between 7 March, when he gave his formal advice, and 13 March, when he had come to this clear, on balance conclusion.

MP Clare Short: No, I do not have any evidence, but I think him changing his mind three times in a couple of weeks, and then even -- in order to say unequivocally there was legal authority, to require Tony Blair to secretly sign a document saying that Iraq was in material breach, and not to report any of that to the Cabinet, is so extraordinary -- and by the way, I see that both Tony Blair and he said the Cabinet were given the chance to ask questions. That is untrue.

Short went on to describe the meeting when the Cabinet was informed of the sudden decision by Goldsmith that the war would be legal, noting that Robin Cook didn't attend and that Goldsmith sat in Cook's chair.

There was a piece of paper round the table. We normally didn't have any papers, apart from the agenda. It was the PQ answer, which we didn't know was a PQ answer then, and he started reading it out, so everyone said "We can read", you know, we didn't -- and then -- so he -- everyond said, "That's it." I said, "That's extraordinary. Why is it so late? Did you change your mind?" and they all said, "Clare!" Everything was very fraught by then and they didn't want me arguing, and I was kind of jeered at to be quiet. That's what happened.

Committee Roderic Lyne: So you went quiet?

MP Clare Short: If he won't answer and the Prime Minister is saying, "Be quiet", and that's it, no discussion, there is only so much you can do, and on this, because I see the Prime Minister -- the Attorney, the then Attorney, to be fair to him, says he was ready to answer questions but none were put. I did ask him later, because there was then the morning War Cabinet, or whatever you call it, that he did come to and he gave all sorts of later legal advice and I asked him privately, "How come it was so late?" and he said, "Oh, it takes me a long time to make my mind up".

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: The argument on this Cabinet meeting we have heard --

MP Clare Short: I would like to ask you to ask for the books -- you know the Cabinet secretary keeps a manuscript note and there is another private secretary that keeps a manuscript note on this. I think you should check the record.

Short noted they were not informed that Goldsmith had voiced objections earlier or that Elizabeth Wilmshurst had resigned over this issue or that the Foreign Office found the war would be illegal without a second UN resolution.

MP Clare Short: I think we should have been told that, and I also think -- because the side documents -- because you can tell he was uncertain. He made Blair write and sign a document saying Saddam Husseinw as not cooperating under the terms of 1441 and was in material breach. When Blix was saying -- do you remember he got rid of the ballistic missiles and he said, "These are not matchsticks", or toothpicks, or something, do you remember? And he was asking for more time. So at the time when Blix was asking for more time, the Prime Minister secretly signed to say there was no cooperation and Blix was saying I'm getting some cooperation. So -- I mean, this is disgraceful.

To Tony Blair's assertion that he had to give up on chasing down a second resolution because the French said they would not approve one, Short called that "a deliberate lie" and explained that a decision was made -- as it had been in the US (she reminded everyone of the "freedom fries") -- to blame the French and use that deceit as an excuse to avoid a second resolution. She notes the French position was not "never" on a second resolution but "not now" while inspections were ongoing.

Short also noted the lie used to deploy the troops to the region, how -- if they weren't deployed -- it wouldn't look like anyone was serious and yet, once they were deployed, the fact that they were there became the reason for "'We've got to go now,' because they can't leave them sweating in the desert? Do you remember the contradiction?" She noted discussions within the Arab world to remove Hussein from Iraq and how possibilities for other avenues or stronger partnerships were repeatedly met with objection that there wasn't time and there must be no waiting.

Short's testimony was strong and consistent throughout and she did a strong job refuting all of Tony Blair's claims before the committee. She also noted that the current prime minister, Gordon Brown, was shut out of the discussions. Today a poll was released.
Kylie MacLellan and Michael Roddy (Reuters) report that the poll found Gordon Brown shared the blame with Blair for the Iraq War (60%) -- that may be due to his continuation of it. It also found that 37% believe Tony Blair should be tried for War Crimes. The reporters do not note it but that is a 9% increase since the most recent poll and the poll took place after Blair testified in public.

Nico Hines live blogged Short's testimony for the Times of London, Andrew Sparrow live blogged for the Guardian and Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogged at Twitter. Iraq Inquiry Blogger also has a post up that provides an overview of Short's testimony. Chris Ames live blogged and fact checked at Iraq Inquiry Digest.

Turning to some of today's reported violence in Iraq . . .


Reuters notes a Mosul grenade attack which left three people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three Shi'ite pilgrims injured, a Taji sticky bombing which injured a police officer and a Garma roadside bombing which injured five police officers.


Reuters notes Iraq and US forces shot dead 1 'suspect' in a Mosul raid (two more arrested) and unknown assailants shot dead 2 people in Mosul (one in a car, one in front of a home).

Yesterday, a deadly bombing shook Baghdad -- or another deadly bombing yet again shook Baghdad. With at least 54 dead and many more injured, how did TV news play the story?
ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer reduced it to a headline late in the show.Diane Sawyer: Violence in Iraq today where a female suicide bomber wearing a vest hidden under her head scarf and shawl -- which is called an abaya -- detonated explosives while she was walking in a group of Shi'ite pilgrims on the northern edge of Baghdad. 54 people were killed, more than 100 were wounded. The pilgrims were on their way to Karbala to visit the holiest shrine in Shi'ite Islam.CBS Evening News with Katie Couric also went with a headline late in the show.Katie Couric: There was an especially brutal attack today in Baghdad a female suicide bomber targeted Shi'ite pilgrims who were about to leave for a religious gathering in Karbala, at least 54 people were killed, more than 100 others wounded. No group has claimed responsibility.NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams couldn't make time for it and was apparently more eager to have Brian gush like Hedda Hopper about Sunday night's Grammys -- if you ever needed to hear Brian dub Elton John and Lady Gaga "over the top," your wish was granted. If you were looking for something resembling actual news, you were left wanting. The NewsHour (PBS) went with a headline in their news wrap:Hari Sreenivasan: A suicide bomber in Baghdad killed at least 54 Iraqis today during a religious procession. At least 117 others were wounded. Many of the victims were Shiite pilgrims on their way to Karbala. Authorities said the bomber was a woman who set off explosives hidden under her cloak. It was the first major strike this year against pilgrims ahead of a major Shiite holy day. The U.S. government is now investigating whether Blackwater Worldwide tried to bribe Iraqi officials with $1 million. Guards with the security firm were involved in a Baghdad shooting in 2007 that killed 17 Iraqis. The New York Times reported today, the Justice Department has focused on whether Blackwater authorized bribes to continue operating in Iraq. The company had no immediate response today.
Also yesterday Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi met with US President Barack Obama and US Vice President Joe Biden at the White House. al-Hashimi belongs to the National Dialogue Front whose Salih al-Mutlaq is the most high profile candidate known to be banned. Why the White House issued no statement might be puzzling; however, when the press didn't ask yesterday and Robert Gibbs blathered on and didn't mention it . . . Don't worry, while everyone pretended to be in a functioning democracy there was a lot of crap about the Superbowl passed off as 'world issues' in the White House press briefing. We got 'big boned' Robert Gibbs pretending he's ever broken a sweat over anything other than an empty box of Ding Dongs and we've got Brian Williams gossiping on air about the Grammys -- we're a nation bursting with all the information we need to know! There is at least one functioning department of the federal government, the
US State Dept issued (link has video and text) a welcoming statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to al-Hashimi before they went into their meeting (despite questions being called out -- yes, the reporters covering the State Dept actually work unlike the bulk of the White House press corps), they took no questions and walked away. Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) was among journalists who spoke with al-Hashemi this morning and he reports of al-Hashemi's conversation with them:

A main topic of discussion, as one might expect, was the upcoming election and the crisis surrounding the disqualification of candidates by Ali al-Lami and Ahmed Chalabi's Accountability and Justice (De-Baathification) Committee. Along with the usual complaints, Hashemi singled out the timing of the committee's moves as particularly egregious: why did a committee formed by Parliament two years ago wait until less than two months before the election to act? He wondered if the elections were being targeted by those who did not want them to succeed, though he declined to speculate aloud on who might hold such hidden agendas. He left little doubt that he thought that the disqualifications could significantly depress Sunni turnout and deeply compromise the legitimacy of the election --- and expressed hope that a solution would be found quickly, even as the opening of the campaign season rapidly approaches.
Hashemi argued that the Iraqi people want and need the upcoming elections to deliver fundamental change. Only a new government, he insisted, one selected by fair and transparent and inclusive elections, could meet the challenges which the current government has failed to overcome. He was 100% sure that such a new government would do better at addressing the many structural and political problems facing Iraq. But when pressed by several of us in the room, he seemed loathe to speculate about what would happen if the elections did not produce such change, just another government which looks a lot like the current one. He insisted that this was just not possible given the deep desire among Iraqis for real change. But at the same time, his concerns about the deBaathification disqualifications and worries that some elements might prefer a failed election suggest that in fact he thinks that it's quite possible indeed for the elections to not produce meaningful change. It's not even clear, frankly, what plausible electoral outcomes would count as meaningful change --- would a victory by Maliki's list would be taken as "failure"?

At today's State Dept press conference (where the reporters actually work and do their jobs as opposed to asking about pop singers and athletic games), Iraq was raised. In fairness to the entire White House press corps -- and not just the small number of them that actually do their jobs -- the tone is probably set by the spokesperson and Robert Gibbs always seems to think he's amusing. Philip J. Crowley handled the State Dept briefing and we'll note this section of his response.

I mean, we -- This is an Iraqi process. We are not in any way, shape or form, interfering in the Iraqi political process. We've been steadfastly supporting the Iraqi political process. Obviously, as Ambassador Hill said yesterday, this has to be seen by the Iraqi people as an inclusive process and one that allows Iraq to continue its remarkable political progress. There's a lot at stake in Iraq on March 7. We've expressed our concerns that a process that appears to the Iraqi people or to a segment of Iraqi society to exclude viable candidates from running for office and participating in the Iraqi political process has -- creates the risk that the result of the election will not be seen as valid, as credible, and that can have potential ramifications for Iraq long term.

And only that section because we've got so much to cover.

Today the US Senate Armed Services Committee tacked the issue of Don't Ask, Don't Tell onto their hearing on the Defense Authorization Request hearing giving it approximately one hour. The background on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We're not going pre-Reagan. If we go pre-Reagan we'll confuse everyone who is under the mistaken belief that there is historical backing for gays and lesbians not being allowed to serve (the only historical backing pre-Reagan would be legal verdicts in the US and that's a mixed bag which includes wins for LGBT rights). 1982, the written policy became gays and lesbians could not serve in the military. In the eighties and nineties, the military was persecuting gays and lesbians and those suspected of being either. Bill Clinton campaigned for president in 1992 and made the promise that he would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military without fear of persecution. Clinton was elected and came up against a hostile Joint Chiefs of Staff, hostile Republicans, hostile Democrats (including Sam Nunn) and a hostile press. As Marcia often notes, there's a historical amnesia taking place allowing a number of people to lie about what happened. Clinton was not able to keep his promise. What he was able to work out was the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The way it worked ideally was that a service member would not disclose their sexual orientation and they could not be asked about it. That was how it worked ideally. The cons include that it treated sexual orientation as something to hide. The pros include that it was an advance over the previous practice. By the end of Bill Clinton's second term, opinions had begun shifting. It should be noted that when shifting opinions are spoken of today, they tend to speak of the public; however, a big shift of opinion was expressed in the hearing from a military officer and an even bigger shift of opinion has taken part in the press which, during Don't Ask, Don't Tell, ran one type of story and only one type of story.
Bob Somerby loves to look back at those Clinton years but either doesn't wish to or is unable to connect the dots. The press made it about sex. They were sniffing around long before they discovered Monica Lewinsky. In fact, the early nineties US mainstream press would best be described as "undersexed and over interested." Today they play at social relevance and many editorial boards have come out for civil services for same-sex couples or for marriage equality but back when Don't Ask, Don't Tell was born, the press was prurient and openly hostile to all things sexual. (Blame it on Madonna, I'm sure they would.) Don't Ask, Don't Tell doesn't just ask a gay service member to live in silence (closeted), it asks them to strive for less than integrity since they must keep hidden who they are. There is so much confusion -- even among reporters -- about the history of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (was it an act of Congress, was it an executive order, etc.) that we're going to note the opening statements of the Committee Chair (Carl Levin), that Ranking Member (John McCain) and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. This is what they said, not what prepared remarks will make it into the record.

Chair Carl Levin: I believe that ending the policy would improve our military's capabilities and reflect our commitment to improving our commitment to equal opportunity. I do not find the arguments that were used to justify Don't Ask, Don't Tell convincing when it took effect in 1993 and even less so now. I agree with what President [Barack] Obama said in his State of the Union address that we should repeal this discriminatory policy. In the latest Gallup poll, the American public overwhelming supports allowing gays to serve openly in the military. 69% are recorded as supporting their right to serve. And many, in fact, are serving, as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General John Shalikashvili, said and he supports ending the policy. A majority of troops already believe that they serve alongside a gay or lesbian colleague. One recent study found that 66,000 gays and lesbians are serving today -- at constant risk of losing their chance to serve. Other nations have allowed gay and lesbian service members to serve in their militaries without discrimination and without impact on unit cohesion. A comprehensive study on this was conducted by RAND in 1993. RAND researchers reported on the positive experiences of France, Germany, Israel and the Netherlands -- all of which allowed known homosexuals to serve in their armed forces. Senator [John] McCain and I have asked the Department of Defense to update the 1993 report. Ending this discriminatory policy will contribute to our military's effectiveness. To take just one example, dozens of Arabic and Farsi linguists have been forced out of the military under Don't Ask, Don't Tell at a time when our need to understand those languages have never been greater. Thousands of troops, 13,000 by one estimate, have been forced to leave the military under the current policy. That number includes many who could help the military complete some particularly difficult and dangerous mission. I have long admired the merit based system employed by the US military that allows service men and women of varied backgrounds to advance to positions of high leadership An army is not a democracy or meritocracy where success depends not on who you are but on how well you do your job. Despite it's necessarily undemocratic nature, our military has helped lead the way in areas of fairness and anti-discrimination. It has served as a flagship for American values and aspirations both inside the United States and around the world. We will hold additional hearings to hear from various points of view and approaches on this matter. This Committtee will hold a hearing on February 11th when we will hear from an independent panel -- the services secretaries and service chiefs will all be testifying to the Committee in the month of Ferbruary on their various budgets and they of course will be open to questions on this subject as well during testimony. My goal will be to move quickly to maximize the opportunities for all Americans to serve their country while addressing any concerns that may be raised. We should end Don't Ask, Don't Tell and we can and should do it in a way that honors our nation's values while making us more secure. My entire statement will be made part of the record. A statement of Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand will also be inserted in the record as well as a statement of Senator McCain's. Senator McCain.

Ranking Member John McCain: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and I want to thank Secretary Gates and Adm Mullen for what's turning in to a very long morning for them and we appreciate your patience and your input on this very, very important issue. Uh, we need to consider that Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that the president has made clear -- most recently last week's State of the Union address -- that he wants Congress to repeal. This would be a substantial and controversial change to a policy that has been successful for two decades. It would also present yet another challenge to our military at a time of already tremendous stress and strain. Our men and women in uniform are fighting two wars guarding the frontlines against the global war on terrorist enemy, serving and sacrificing on battlefields far from home and working to rebuild and reform the force after more than eight years of conflict. At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I'm enormously proud of and thankful for every American who chooses to put on the uniform of our nation and serve at this time of war. I encourage more of our fellow citizens to serve. and to open up opportunites to do so. Many gay and lesbians are serving admirably in our armed forces, even giving their lives so that we and others can know the blessings of peace. I honor their sacrifice and I honor them. Our challenge is how to continue welcoming this service amid the vast complexities of the largest, most expensive, most well regarded institution in our nation: our armed forces. This is an extremely difficult issue and the Senate vigorously debated it in 1993. We heard from the senior uniformed and civilian leaders of our military on eight occassions before this Committee alone. When Congress ultimately wrote the law, we included important findings that did justice to the seriousness of the subject. I would ask, without objection, Mr. Chairman, that a copy fo the statute including those findings be included in the record.

Chair Carl Levin: It will be.

Ranking Member John McCain: I won't quote all those findings. But three points must be made. First, Congress found in the law that the military's mission to prepare for and conduct combat operations requires service men and women to accept living and working conditions that are often spartan and characterized by forced intimacy with little or no privacy. The law finds that civilian life is fundamentally different from military life which is characterized by its own laws and rules, customs and traditions including many restrictions on personal conduct that would not be tolerated in civil society. Finally, the law finds that the essence of military capability is good order and unit cohesion and that any practice which puts those goals at unacceptable risks can be restricted These findings were the foundation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And I'm eager to hear from our distinguished witnesses what has changed since Don't Ask, Don't Tell was written such that the law that they supported can now be repealed. Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective. It has helped to balance a potential disruptive tension between the desires of a minority and the broader interests of our all volunteer force. It is well understood and predominately supported by our fighting men and women. It reflects as I understand them the preferences of our uniform services. It has sustained unit cohesion and unit morale while still allowing gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country in uniform. And it has done all of this for nearly two decades. Mr. Chairman, this is a letter signed by 1,000 former general and flag officers who have weighed in on this issue. I think that we all in Congress should pay attention and benefit from the experience and knowledge of over 1,000 former general and flag officers where they say 'We firmly believe that this law which Congress passed to protect good order, discipline and morale in the unique environment of the armed forces deserves continued support.' And -- so -- I think we should also pay attention to those who have served who can speak more frankly on many occassions than those who are presently serving. I know that any decision that Congress makes about the future of this law will inevitablly leave a lot of people angry and unfulfilled. There are a lot of patriotic and well meaning Americans on each side of this debate and I have heard their many passionate concerns. Ultimately though, numerous US military leaders tell me that Don't Ask, Don't Tell is working and that we should not change it now. I agree. I would welcome a report done by the Joint Chiefs of Staff based solely on military readiness, effectiveness and needs -- not on politics -- that would study the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, consider the effect of its repeal on our armed services and that would offer the best military advice on the right course of action. We have an all volunteer force. It is better trained, more effective and more professional than any military in our history and today that force is shouldering a greater global burden than any time in decades. We owe our lives to our fighting men and women and we should be exceedingly cautious, humble and sympathetic when attempting to regulate their affairs. Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been an imperfect but effective policy. And at this moment, when we're asking more of our military than at any time in recent memory, we should not repeal this law. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Chair Carl Levin: Thank you, Senator McCain. Secretary Gates.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: Last week, during the State of the Union address, the president announced that he will work with Congress this year to repeal the law known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell. He subsequently directed the Department of Defense to begin the preparations necessary for a repeal of the current laws and policy. I fully support the president's decision. The question before us is not whether the military preapres to make this change, but how we must -- how we best prepare for it. We have received our orders from the Commander in Chief and we are moving out accordingly; however, we also can only take this process so far as the ultimate decision rests with you, the Congress. I am mindful of the fact, as are you, that unlike the last time this issue was considered by the Congress more than 15 years ago, our military is engaged in two wars that have put troops and their families under considerable stress and strain. I am mindful, as well, that attitudes towards homosexuality may have changed considerably -- both in society generally and in the military -- over the intervening years. To ensure that the department is prepared should the law be changed, and working in close consultation with Adm Mullen, I have appointed a high-level working group within the department that will immediately begin a review of the issues associated with properly implementing a repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. The mandate of this working group is to thorougly, objectively and methodically examine all aspects of this question and produce its finding and recommendations in the form of an implementation plan by the end of this calendar year. A guiding principle of our efforts will be to minimize disruption and polarization within the ranks, with special attention paid -- special attention paid to those serving on the front lines. I am confident that this can be achieved. The working group will examine a number of lines of study, all of which will proceed simultaneously. First, the working group will reach out to be the force to authoritatively understand their views and attitudes about the impacts of repeal. I expect that the same sharp divisions that characterize the debate over these issues outside of the military will quickly seek to find their way into this process, particularly as it pertains to what are the true views and attitudes of our troops and their families. I am determined to carry out this process in a way that establishes objective and reliable information on this question with minimial influence by the policy or political debate. It is essential that we accomplish this in order to have the best possible analysis and information to guide the policy choices before the Department and the Congress. Second, the working group will undertake a thorough examination of all the changes to the department's regulations and policies that may have to be made. These include potential revisions to policies on benefits, base housing, fraternization and misconduct, separations and discharges, and many others. We will enter this examination with no preconceived views, but a recognition that this will represent a fundamental change in personnel policy -- one that will require we provide our commanders with the guidance and tools necessary to accomplish this transition successfully and with minimal disruption to the Department's critical missions. Third, the working group will examine the potential impacts of a change in the law on military effectiveness, including how a change might affect unit cohesion, recruiting and retention, and other issues curicial to the performance of the force. The working group will develop ways to mitigate and manage any negative impacts. These are, generally speaking, the broad areas we have identified for study under this review. We will, of course, continue to refine and expand these as we get into this process or engage in discussion with the Congress or other sources. In this regard, we expect that the working group will reach out to outside experts with a wide vareity of perspectives and experience. To that end, the Department will -- as requested by this Committee, ask the RAND Corporation to update their study from 1993 on the impacts of allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military. We have also received some helpful suggestions on how this outside review might be expanded to cover a wide swath of issues. This will be a process that will be open to views and recommendations from a wide variety of sources, including, of course, members of Congress. Mr. Chairman, I expect that our approach may cause some to wonder why it will take the better part of the year to accomplish this task. We looked at a variety of options, but when you take into account the overriding imperative -- to get this right and minimize disruption to a force that is actively fighting two wars and working through the stress of almost a decade of combat -- then it is clear to us that we must proceed in manner that allows for the thorough examination of all issues. An important part of this process is to engage our men and women in uniform and their families over this period since, after all, they will ultimately determine whether we make this transition successfully or not. To ensure this process is able to accomplish its important mission, Chairman Mullen and I have determined that we need to appoint the highest level officials to carry it out. Accordingly, I am naming the Department of Defense General Counsel, Jeh Johnson, and General Carter Ham, Commander of US Army Europe, to serve as the co-chairs for this effort.
Simultaneous with launching this process, I have also directed the Department to quickly review the regulations used to implement the current Don't Ask, Don't Tell law and -- within 45 days -- present to me recommended changes to those regulations that, within existing law, will enforce this policy in a more humane and fiar manner. You may recall that I asked the Department's General Counsel to conduct a preliminary review of this matter last year. Based on that preliminary review, we believe that we have a degree of latitude within the existing law to change our internal procedures in a manner that is more appropriate and fair to our men and women in uniform. We will now conduct a final detailed assessment of this proposal before proceeding. Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain and members of this Committee, the Department of Defense understands that this is a very difficult and, in the minds of some, controversial policy question. I am determined that we in the Department carry out this process professionally, thoroughly, dispassionately, and in a manner that is responsive to the direction of the President and to the needs of the Congress as you debate and consider this matter. However, on behalf of the men and women in uniform and their families, I also ask that you work with us to, insofar as possible, to keep them out of the political dimension of this issue. I am not asking for you not to do your jobs fully and with vigor, but rather that as this debate unfolds, you keep the impact it will have on our forces firmly in mind. Thank you for this opportunity to lay out our thinking on this important policy question. We look forward to working with the Congress and hearing your ideas on the best way ahead.

Trina's grabbing Mike Mullens' opening statement at her site tonight, Kat will note the hearings at her site and Wally will note it at Rebecca's site where he's filling in. Roland Burris' statements are among those which will be noted. In real time, back in 1993, it was apparently too 'icky' for the press to cover. They could do S&M cover stories on the weekly 'news' magazines, they just couldn't bring themselves to cover LGBT issues. A lot has changed since then (thankfully). But this will be a topic at numerous community sites because it is an important topic and it doesn't need to be silenced, erased or ignored.

For those who may have missed it, John McCain is planning on fighting an effort to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell and he's planning on doing so via a whisper campaign. Apparently embracing the recent shameful Supreme Court decision which found that homophobes would be harmed by having their testimony opened up to the full public, McCain intends to 'speak for' numerous people and insist that they are telling him this and they are telling him that; however, they would be harmed if they spoke publicly. That will be his argument throughout the year. Gates is less than convincing (you should catch that just by reading his opening statement above). But let's focus on McCain and note that he stresses the military does not have all the rights and freedoms that civilian life has. True enough. And when given an order, they are expected to obey it unless they find a conflict between it and the Constitution (which they take an oath to uphold). In other words, there's no conflict. There's no need to fret and worry. If the law changes, that's what they follow. And if they don't, they face charges of insubordination or worse. That argument McCain's attempting to stitch together? It has many components that work against what he's dubbing his own 'logic.'

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):Has the Democratic Party abandoned support of reproductive rights? Next on NOW. To gain their historic control of Congress, Democrats fielded moderate candidates who didn't always follow the party line, especially when it came to abortion. Now that the Democratic Party has the legislative upper hand, are they willing to negotiate away reproductive rights for other political gains? On Friday, February 5 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW goes to Allentown, Pennsylvania to ask: Are abortion rights now in jeopardy at the very hands of the party that has historically protected them? Among those interviewed are pro-life Democratic U.S. Representative Bart Stupak and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean. "If there was a bill on the floor to reverse Roe vs Wade, and says 'life begins at conception,' I would vote for it." Congressman Stupak tells NOW. Jen Boulanger, director of the often-protested Allentown Women's Center, says, "I would expect more from the Democratic Party, to stick to their ideals, not just throw us to the curb." Has the Democratic Party traded principles for power? Next on NOW.

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